JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound - Want More Review
Posted by C.A. Bell on 04.18.2012
Channeling the old world soul of Otis Redding and James Brown, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound have been making some waves. But, is this just lazy, recycled fluff or a new golden age for soul? Join 411 reviewer C.A. Bell to find out.
Release Date: Oct. 24, 2011 Running Time: 37:33 Label: Bloodshot Records Genre: Acid Soul Key Tracks:
"Everything Will Be Fine"
"Sister Ray Charles"
It takes a place like Chicago to birth a group like JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. These roughneck, suit wearing soul junkies have a serious respect for history accompanied by a seemingly antithetical individualism. I've spoken before about 'throwback' acts in detail. In my mind, the backhanded nature of that description couldn't be further from the truth. To create new music from genres that have long since passed vogue and keep the songs interesting is actually quite a bit harder than just doing what everyone else around you is doing. It takes the musical skill necessary to stand apart. It takes the confidence necessary to make the choice. It takes a knowledge of music history that is unlike ninety percent of the music-consuming public. Most of all, it takes balls. JC and the boys have those in spades.
On Want More, JC & the Uptown Sound aren't slaving for any one particular hero, but the world of soul music as a whole. You'll find James Brown on the one ("I Can See Everything"), Otis Redding rockers ("Everything Will Be Fine"), Sam Cooke ballads ("To Love Someone (That Don't Love You)"), and even those great Curtis Mayfield epic social tales ("Awake"). On top of all of that, you also get a cover of Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart". It was apparent with Jeff Tweedy's production and writing for Mavis Staples' last record that his music could fit well in the genre. JC doles out further proof here. For my money, the best track on the record is also probably the most unlike anything I've ever heard before. "Missing Things", while still undeniably soul, has a sound all to itself. It also features a somewhat uncommon performance from Brooks that I appreciate. He is calmer on this track, without straying too far into ballad territory. The only song that isn't really working for me on Want More is deep in the heart of ballad country. With the mid-album "To Love Someone (That Don't Love You)", the boys are paying homage to that Sam Cook or Philly soul falsetto ballad. I'm just a hard sell on any male falsetto vocal (save Freddie Mercury), and I've never been particularly fond of the soul falsetto. I think it has something to do with a bad experience with Prince's Batman soundtrack. Outside of that song, there aren't any true 'skippers' to mention.
A few months ago, I was praising the newest LP from Stew and the Negro Problem, but found fault in Stew's band sounding a bit too structured or uptight. I think the opposite is true on Want More. JC isn't afraid to let the cats out of the bag, and I think the performances are better for it. Of course, JC doesn't exactly have the same lyrical wit as Stew (though, I think "Missing Things" proves he could be a better songwriter). The music on this record is nothing short of true joy wearing a night club suit. JC's lyrics embrace the modern and pay homage to history in the same breath. I think there is a lot worse out there. This is a great record to break out at parties or just to solo listening. I doubt anyone will think they are changing the world, but they are making it a more fun place to be.
The 411: A new take on old soul finds its most comfortable groove in the newest album from these Chicago natives. Break out your dancing shoes because JC & the Uptown Sound are here to get some asses shaking.